Person to Person‘s uncomplicated plotline, minimal dialogue, and straightforward acting style results in a rare gem of a film.
Dustin Guy Defa’s indie feature made its public debut this summer after its initial release at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival back in January. Shot entirely on 16mm film (for a genuine, retro feel), the film follows various unrelated characters on a single day in Manhattan as we peer into the typical happenings of their lives. We meet Phil (Michael Cera) an awkward newspaper reporter, who spends his weekends as the bassist of a death metal band, as he trains newbie Claire (Abbi Jacobson) for her first day on the job. The antics of their day surrounds the unfolding story of a possible murder in Brooklyn that needs investigating, which in-turn puts Claire’s career choices to the test.
Then we find Wendy (Tavi Gevinson), an articulate high schooler who’s resentful of her best friend’s boyfriend and uses their day of skipping school to explore her own sensitivities and desires. Then comes Benny (Bene Coopersmith), an eclectic man with no specified profession other than his love for collecting vintage records, who we are introduced to as he is being tipped in that a rare Charlie Parker vinyl is for sale, which he is eager to purchase and re-sell to take his girlfriend to a “fancy night out.”
Unlike many ensemble films of its time, the character’s of Person to Person never cross paths or are even remotely related to one another. What they do seem to share is their personal desire for resolution and inner harmony. As deep as that interpretation may sound, this film is anything but deep. With only one single day shown to represent the lives of these characters, the viewer is given very little background information or internal insight on the workings of these characters. The viewer is forced to focus on the here and now, which works tremendously well in this case. Defa using very simple dialogue, plot points, and even character presentation to achieve an entirely new perspective on storytelling. With such simplicity comes an innocence from the character’s and their average, yet exciting (at least to them) lives. Some may construe this a naivety, but to me, it’s a purity of a genuine nature that is very rarely depicted in cinema. This film encapsulates the true idea that it really is the little things in life that we should enjoy the most. It’s a film with subtle wit, quirky characters, awkward silences, and a jazzy soundtrack: the perfect recipe for a cult following that I hope is currently in the process of forming, it surely deserves one.
Watch the full trailer above.